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sidered their Messiah as a mere man, and a proper descendant of David, I own that I am disposed to examine, with some rigour, any pretended evidence to the contrary; though the speculative opinions of some of the Cabalists among them is a thing of little consequence, when they can be proved to be different from those that were entertained by the nation in general.
What Calmet says concerning the angel Metatron in Ben Mordecai's note, has no relation to the Messiah; so that the most that I should be disposed to infer from what the Jewish Cabalists may have said on the subject would be, that this Metatron was something similar to what Philo represents the logos as being, namely an efflux of the divinity, but no being or person, permanently distinguished from him. And it is highly improbable, that any Jew should have supposed that their Messiah, a man descended from David, would have no proper human soul, besides this Metalron or logos supplying the place of it; though they might suppose the Messiah to be distinguished by the presence and influence of this divine efflux.
The Jewish Cabalists might easily admit even that the Messiah might be called Jehovah, without supposing that he was any thing more than a man, who had no existence before bis birth. That it must have been the mere name, and not the nature of God, that the Jews supposed their Messiah to partake of, is all that can be admitted in the case. Several things in the Scriptures are called by the name of Jehovah, as Jerusalem, in the passage above quoted, is called “ Jehovah our righteousness ;” but this never led the Jews to suppose, that there were two Jehovahs, a greater and a less. Nothing can be more expressly declared, than that there is but one Jehovah; and in the passages quoted by Bishop Pearson, there is no intimation of there being two Jehovahs; so that if the Messiah be Jehovah, there must have been no other being above him, which Mr. Taylor would not suppose.
From reading the above quoted passage from Mr. Taylor, the reader would conclude, that it was the universal opinion of the Jewish Cabalists, if not of the Jews in general, that this great angel Metatron was the soul of the Messiah. But this would be a mistake; for Beausobre quotes some of them who said, that the soul of the Messiah was the same that had been the soul of Adam, and likewise that of David. The Cabalistic proof of this mystery, he says, is the letter A in Adam, meaning Adam ; the D, David; and the M,
the Messiah. * So little dependence is there on the whimsical and uncertain notions of these Jewish Cabalists. However, when they are quoted, they ought to be quoted fairly. Mr. Taylor probably saw nothing of them, but what he found in Dr. Allix.
† Basnage gives a large account of the Jewish angel Metatron, shewing that he is the same with the angel Michael, concerning whom the Jews had many absurd fancies. He particularly shews, that the name of God being in this angel, means nothing more than that the letters of the words Metatron, noon, and those of Shadai, 'Niv, considered as numerals, express the same number, viz. 314. I
Many mistakes on this subject have been occasioned by its being taken for granted, that what is said of the logos may be applied to the Messiah, because the generality of Christians have supposed them to be synonymous. But this was not the case with the Jews; and there is a passage quoted by Basnage, & which shews, that some of their writers considered them as quite distinct from each other. 6 Jonathan says, that the Messiah and Moses will appear at the end of the world, the one in the Desart, and the other at Rome, and that the word, or the logos, will march between them.'
Till I see much more evidence than I have yet met with, (and I have not spared any pains to come at it,) I cannot admit that any Jew ever supposed that their Messiah either pre-existed, or was, properly speaking, God.
ll With respect to all these pretences to make the Jews favourable to the doctrine of the Trinity, Basnage says,
They cannot be advanced without the authors of them deceiving themselves. The Jews will never,” he says, “ be convinced by endeavouring to persuade them that they believe what they do not believe, and that they do not oppose the doctrine of the Trinity, which is the principal object of
• Histoire De Manichéisme, (Amst. 1739) II. pp. 491, 494. (P.)
« • Le Rabbin Elie,' dit un savant moderne, (Sandius, De Orig. Animæ in Addit, ad p. 108,) témoigne que la Métemsychose est un sentiment reçu et approuvé par les maîtres : Ils ne doutent point, que les Ames Humaines de passent d'un corps dans un autre, au moins trois fois. Ils assurent que l'Ame d' Adam passa dans David, et qu'elle doit animer, un jour, le corps du Messie. La preuve Cabalistique de ce mystère est dans le nom d' Adam; l'A, désignaut Adam; le D, David; et l'M, le Messie.' Ibid.
+ This paragraph is not in Theol. Repos. | History of the Jews, B. iv. Ch. xix. III. p. 137. (P.) Š Ibid. Ch. xxiv. Sect. ix. (P.) i This paragraph is not in Theol. Repos. I See Vol. XVIII. pp. 299, 300.
their blasphemies." He mentions a Jewish writer, “ Jacob, the son of Amram,” who “ laughs at the Christians who bring proofs of the Trinity from the Cabala. The Cabalists,” says he, “ under several of the letters conceal .mysteries which the vulgar cannot discover ; they only meant to teach the Unity of God, and to explain his attributes, and they were very ignorant who looked into their writings for the Trinity.'
How far Manasseh Ben Israel was from supposing that there was any Trinity in the Divine nature, appears from the very section that Dr. Allix has quoted, which contains his interpretation of Gen. i. 26, “ And God said, Let us make man.”
After reciting a variety of interpretations, he concludes as follows: “Or shall we say, that what seems to be of greater consequence, we generally undertake with more study and deliberation, and therefore that the scripture in describing the creation of man, makes use of the plural number, Let us make, which is the language of a person commanding and exciting himself to undertake and do any thing; so that God would shew that all other creatures were made for the use of man. But whether God be supposed to speak to all second causes, or to intelligencies only, or to the elements, or to souls, or to use the style of a king, or, lastly, whether he be supposed to excite or command himself, all ground of controversy is removed. For it does not follow, that there is any multiplication of the first cause, which is most simple, and one, because the phrase Let us make is used; for Moses might very safely make use of this language, since he every where most clearly teaches, that there is but one God; and, therefore, he only will defend his error by these words, who knowingly and willingly errs." +
* “ Mais peut-on avancer cela sans vouloir se tromper, puis que l'unité d'un Dieu est le dogme capital des Juifs, et que la pluralité des personnes fait le plus grand obstacle à leur conversion.-On ne convaincra jamais les Juifs, lors qu'on s'entêtera de leur persuader qu'ils ont cru ce qu' ils ne croient pas, et qu'ils ne s'opposent point au dogme de la Trinité, qui est le principal objet de leurs blasz phèmes.Jacob, fils d' Amram, dans un ouvrage manuscrit qu'il intitule La Porte de la Vérité, se moque des Chrétiens qui tirent de la Cabale des preuves pour la Trinité. Car, dit il, les Cabalistes enferment sous l'écorce de la lettre des mystères que le vulgaire ne découvre pas. Les théologiens n'ont dessein que d'enseigner l'unité de Dieu, et d'expliquer ses attributs; et il faut être ignorant pour chercher chez eux la Trinité." L. vii. Ch. xxxiv. IV. p. 2159, &c. (P.)
+ “ Aut dicemus, plerumque id, quod majoris momenti videtur, majori quoque studio et deliberatione nos aggredi: ideoque scripturam iu creatione hominis peculiari modo loqui in plurali, faciamus: quod verbum videtur imperantis sibi ipsi, et ad suscipiendum ac faciendum aliquid incitantis : eaque re ostendere Dominus vult, omnes reliquas creaturas suo beneficio creatas. Sed sive cum omnibus secundis causis loquatur Deus, sive cum intelligentiis tantum, sive cum elementis, sive cum conciliatione ejusmodi tota tollitur controversia. Etenim non quia faciamus dicitur, inde sequitur multiplicatio aliqna primæ causæ, quæ simplissima est et unica. Moses vero causam cur ita scriberet, justam habuit, quia clarissime passim docet unicum Numen esse ; eoque solus is, qui sciens volens errat, his verbis errorem suam
CHAPTER II. General Considerations relating to the supposed Conduct of
Christ and the Apostles, with respect to the Doctrines of his Pre-existence and Divinity.
The whole nation of the Jews having been so well grounded in the great doctrine of the Divine Unity, ever since their return from the Babylonish Captivity, and their attachment to it having strengthened continually, as the whole of their history shews, especially in consequence of their persecution by Antiochus Epiphanes
, and during their subjection to the Romans, in which their atter abhorrence of every thing that had the appearance of idolatry is seen upon all occasions,) and this being well known to, and allowed by all the Christian fathers; it could not but, even in their idea, require the greatest caution and address to teach them
doctrine that could be construed into an infringement of it. That the doctrine of the divinity of Christ had this appearance, those fathers acknowledged, when they supposed that Moses and the prophets could not teach it, lest it should have given the Jews a pretence for relapsing into the worship of many gods.
They could not imagine that this difficulty would be at all removed by the Christian doctrine of Jesus being the Messiah, because it was well known to them that the Jews expected nothing more than a man for their Messiah ; and even a man born in the usual way, a proper descendant of David. Their highest expectation concerning the Messiah was, that he would be a great prince, a conqueror, and a legislator, and perhaps that he would not die. The probability is, that they imagined that the race of their kings descended from David would be revived in him, and continue to the end of time. But all this is far short of the deification of the Messiah, or the idea of his being a great pre-existent spirit, the maker of the world under God, and who, in the name of God, had intercourse with the patriarchs. Such notions as these do not appear ever to have entered into
defenen o "
the head of any Jew, extravagant as their expectations were concerning the dignity and power of their Messiah.
Here, then, was a great dilemma in which the Christian fathers, advocates for the doctrines of the pre-existence and divinity of Christ, found themselves. They were under the necessity of maintaining that they were doctrinės taught either by Christ or the apostles, or they must have abandoned them themselves. Doctrines of this great extent and magnitude, and so revolting to the minds of all Jews, they could not but suppose would alarm them very much; and therefore that it was necessary to introduce them with the greatest caution. Still, however, they must have been taught them fully and explicitly at one time or other.
Accordingly, we find, in their accounts of the preaching of our Saviour and his apostles, that they did suppose that the greatest possible caution was used, and that this cautious proceeding was continued even till after the death of most of the apostles ; so that the doctrines of the pre-existence and divinity of Christ were not fully discovered till the publication of the Gospel of John, which was one of the last of all the books of the New Testament. But at that time they thought it to be absolutely necessary; as otherwise there would hardly have been any besides Unitarians in the church; the knowledge of those great doctrines having, in their opinion, been confined to the apostles and the leading Christians only.
Á more improbable hypothesis was perhaps never formed by man, to account for any fact whatever; and yet I do not know that the Christian fathers could have done any better. Let their successors, who are equally interested in the solution of the problem, do better if they can. But certainly they who were nearer to the times of the apostles, were in a situation to form a better judgment in this case than any persons at this day can pretend to be; and therefore I cannot help concluding, that they were well aware, that the supposition of this discovery having been made at an earlier period in the gospel history would have been liable to still greater objections than the hypothesis which they did adopt.' It is most probable that the state of .opinions in their own time made it absolutely necessary for them to have recourse to this hypothesis, lame and wretched as it is,
The primitive fathers were not prevented by the supposition above-mentioned, from attempting to prove the preexistence and divinity of Christ from those books of the New
Testament which were muhliched before the Gospel of John.